‘Bhattal, Barnal illegally occupying govt houses’

In a significant development, the Punjab government on Saturday admitted, in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, that two of its former chief ministers were illegally occupying government houses in Chandigarh.

The government told the Court that former chief ministers, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Surjit Singh Barnala, are in unauthorised occupation of government houses. The state further submitted that the officer on special duty to the Punjab chief minister, M P Singh, and IAS officers, N K Jain and B K Srivastava, were also illegally occupying houses in Chandigarh.

A list, of unauthorised occupants, was submitted during the resumed hearing of a petition regarding the issue.

As the petition, filed by Surinder Pal Singh Pinna, came up for hearing on Saturday afternoon, counsel for Punjab government told the Court that house number 46 in Chandigarh's Sector 2 was being illegally occupied by Bhattal and she was to pay a penal rent of Rs 66,64,839 for the unauthorised use of the premises between March 22, 2012 and November 15, 2012. The house, the government said, stood allotted to the Punjab Leader of Opposition and senior Congress leader Sunil Jakhar. The government added that house number 11 in Sector 7 was illegally occupied by Barnala.

The state has already issued notices to Bhattal to vacate the government house after she was replaced as Leader of Opposition by Jakhar. Bhattal was in fact asked to vacate the house more than two decades ago by the state government.

The former chief minister, however, has been claiming that she is being "victimised."

Adjourning the case, the High Court on Saturday directed Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to furnish information pertaining to government houses which have been illegally occupied and the status of each government house.

From which fund was money spent to renovate Punjab DGP house: HC

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